Toxicity of Different Zinc Oxide Nanomaterials at 3 Trophic Levels: Implications for Development of Low-Toxicity Antifouling Agents

Sergey Dobretsov*, Priyanka Sathe, Tanujjal Bora, Michael Barry, Myo Tay Zar Myint, Mohammed Al Abri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Because zinc oxide (ZnO) nanomaterials are used in antifouling and antibacterial solutions, understanding their toxic effects on different aquatic organisms is essential. In the present study, we evaluated the toxicity of ZnO nanoparticles of 10 to 30 nm (ZnONPI) and 80 to 200 nm (ZnONPII), ZnO nanorods (width 80 nm, height 1.7 µm) attached to the support substrate (glass, ZnONRG) and not attached (ZnONRS), as well as Zn2+ ions at concentrations ranging from 0.5 to 100 mg/L. Toxicity was evaluated using the microalga Dunaliella salina, the brine shrimp Artemia salina, and the marine bacterium Bacillus cereus. The highest toxicity was observed for ZnONPs (median lethal concentration [LC50] ~15 mg/L) and Zn2+ ions (LC50 ~13 mg/L), whereas the lowest toxicity found for ZnO nanorods (ZnONRG LC50 ~60 mg/L; ZnONRS LC50 ~42 mg/L). The presence of the support substrate in case of ZnO nanorods reduced the associated toxicity to aquatic organisms. Smaller ZnONPs resulted in the highest Zn2+ ion dissolution among tested nanostructures. Different aquatic organisms responded differently to ZnO nanomaterials, with D. salina and B. cereus being more sensitive than A. salina. Toxicity of nanostructures increased with an increase of the dose and the time of exposure. Supported ZnO nanorods can be used as a low-toxicity alternative for future antimicrobial and antifouling applications. Environ Toxicol Chem 2020;39:1343–1354.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1343-1354
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Aquatic organisms
  • Nanoparticles
  • Nanorods
  • Nanotoxicology
  • Zinc oxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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